Officers with the Dover Police Department wrapped up a seven-week gang initiative Sept. 30 with help from the Delaware State Police, Department of Correction and the Delaware Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement.

The initiative began May 26 with investigations into several shootings in the city. There had been 23 shootings in 2017 up until that date and another seven in June, department spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

At that rate, Chief of Police Marvin Mailey and Mayor Robin Christiansen said the city would exceed the 2016 total of 40 shootings.

Throughout the investigations of the shootings that already had occurred, police traced the majority to local gangs. Dover authorities learned state troopers also had been investigating several incidents of gang-related activity around the Dover area, Hoffman said.

In July, police formed a gang initiative task force with assistance from the state police, DOC and ATF to combat gang violence in Dover.

Officers used special investigative techniques, surveillance, proactive patrols of known gang areas and partnerships with other agencies such as Youth Probation to identify and investigate gang activities.

As a result, officers identified 101 suspected gang members in and around the Dover area, with 51 suspected of being involved in the “48 gang” and 39 suspected of being involved in the “WSG” (West Side Gang).

Hoffman said police officially validated 28 people as being gang members.

During this time, officers arrested 55 individuals on 269 criminal charges, with 31 being known or suspected gang members. Police recovered 17 firearms, 2,594 bags of heroin, 16 grams of crack cocaine, 442.8 grams of marijuana, and 56 MDMA pills. This time also included 10 search warrants at various locations in the city of Dover.

At least one firearm has been linked to two shootings that occurred in the city of Dover in July 2017, Hoffman said.

“The idea behind the initiative was to identify, investigate, and target gang members in and around Dover with a specific focus on the 48 and West Side Gangs that have affected our communities with their involvement in drugs and violent activity,” Mailey said.

“While successful, this collaborative effort was just the beginning of our mission to stop violence in our city,” the chief added. “I thank the Delaware State Police, Delaware Department of Correction, the ATF, and the men and women of the Dover Police Department for their hard work during this initiative.

“These law enforcement members knew this initiative would involve dealing with some of the most dangerous and violent criminals in our area, but never hesitated to when it came to making our mission a success and make our city safer,” Mailey said.

DSP Troop 3 commander Capt. Josh Bushweller added, “The Delaware State Police appreciate the strong partnership we have with the Dover Police Department and thank them for the opportunity to work collectively attacking gang-related and violent crime in and around the Dover area.

“We share in the success of the great work done by the task force and will continue to collaborate together on making all of our communities safer.”

Daniel Board, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore Field Division, said, “In Delaware and throughout this great country, the men and women of ATF have no higher priority than to address organizational based-firearm related violent crime. Of equal importance is the partnership we have and will continue to build with all our law enforcement partners.

“Together, with these collaborations, we will relentlessly continue to take back the streets and communities we all serve and protect - one block at a time,” he said.

Hoffman said the department is not able to release the names of those arrested.

“We cannot release that information more than five days after an arrest,” he said, adding the task force had made many arrests over several weeks. Several of those arrests were publicized in press releases at the time but purposely did not mention the gang connection.

“We were using the information we’d gathered, including intelligence and evidence to identify other gang members and to initiate other investigations to solve other crimes in the Dover area,” he said.